With the blog getting longer and the Sunday social/restaurant reviews getting ever more desperate, I wanted to continue and offer readers a mid-week review of some good food related options in Israel. In the past couple of weeks, I have touched upon great hummus, falafel and pizza. This week I would like to share a few food related gems that I have discovered in the Carmel Market.
The Carmel market is a great traditional food market in the centre of Tel Aviv, but the nicest thing about it and Israeli produce in general, is seasonality! Living abroad I had access to fruits / vegetables at all times of the year. The problem was most of it was imported and were pale imitations of what they should taste like.
In Israel seasonality is king and the fruit and vegetables taste like they should. There is nothing more amazing than visiting the market and seeing a new fruit or vegetable take centre stage, whether it is Artichokes, Cherries or Watermelons – it makes food so much more exciting. For example, in the past couple of months it has been the artichoke gracing my table in all its culinary guises and I suspect next will be grapes and cherries!
When I visit the market I see lots of tourists soaking in the sights and sounds of the colourful stalls but I suspect many are unaware of specific places to visit and buy. I have been visiting the place for several months and have only scratched the surface, yet some things are a given. For example, almost everything is negotiable and tourists are usually charged higher prices. Some stall owners are more genuine and helpful than others, some also get upset when you touch or want to try something without buying. Even so, don’t be afraid to talk to the sellers, negotiate only if you want and be adventurous.
Over time I have settled on a handful of places which I buy on a regular basis and am happy to share these spots. As there are so many fruit and vegetable places I will not touch upon these but on the more unusual offerings.
Smoked Salmon – Yishkon Street
I was dumbfounded when I found this place on a side street off the market, two religious brothers with family roots in Norway importing whole salmon and smoking it in the market, alongside smoked Tuna and Mackerel. Needless to say it is very fresh and tasty and a usual stop for me. I often buy whole smoked salmon for holidays and special events - Closed on Sundays
House Kebabs - HaCarmel 50
Meat is very difficult to buy in the market as I am very concerned of the quality and hygiene. Luckily I read an article about this place by an Israeli chef and was happily surprised not to die when I bought mince beef. However, the crème de la crème is the house kebabs which are made fresh in store. I don’t know what mixture of herbs they use but I find it very tasty, as do my guests who always ask about my ‘secret’ recipe. They also sell Argentinian beef (which I have yet to try) and pork products (which I also haven’t tried).
Stern Coffee – HaCarmel Street 33
There are several coffee sellers (not cafes) in the market but I have settled on this place run by an elderly religious man. Coffee is ground from countries such as Columbia, Costa Rica and Guatemala. When buying your coffee let the seller know how you make your coffee as it has an impact on how much he grinds the beans. I particularly recommend it for Tel Aviv residents who do not like Israeli/Arab style coffee. Though be aware that his prices are high.
Cheese – HaCarmel 34
There aren’t great cheese stalls in this market, like in the Jerusalem market or cheese stores that litter Tel Aviv, but I buy my Israeli cheeses from this store/stall. I suggest going for either the soft Tzepat or Bulgarian style as they are good Israeli options. They also sell foreign cheeses such as Parmesan and Mozzarella. Alternatively pop to Levinski market for some interesting cheese places as well as nuts, herbs and olives.
I buy my olives at the stall of the ‘body builder’. Ok I don’t know if he is one but he looks the part. There is a large selection including pickles and pickled cabbage. I tend to buy a mixture of spicy green olives and brown Kalamata. I also buy my olive oil and raw tehina from his stall. He can be found just of HaCarmel street on one of the small side streets south of Rambam.
The Asian Supermarket (East and West) – 17 HaCarmel Street
I have yet to find good Asian food in Israel (bar the Thai House on Bograshov) but luckily the market has a well-stocked Asian supermarket where I buy my Gyoza skins, Kafir lime leaves and soy sauce. Prices are reasonable as are the owners who are happy to answer any Asian food related questions.
Original Turkish Bourekas – HaCarmel 39
An acquired taste, as I know many visitors find it too rich and heavy, this joint near the front of the market (Allenby entrance) offers good quality examples stuffed with cheese and/or spinach. My tip is to ask for it complete with an egg, pickles and tomatoes as the combination to me is what makes it tasty. However, it is very unhealthy and not as good as the bourekas in Pninat Hayir in Haifa.
The Syrian Hummus – Yemenite Quarter
My favourite hummus currently can be found two streets away from the market and is a good spot to take a break and eat a delicious version of this delicacy. Only open until the hummus runs out at about 2pm.
Some places I avoid:
There are several bread stalls in the market – I avoid the ones which are not in front of baking facilities as I imagine they will be less fresh and I do not buy from the seemingly crazy lady in the middle of the market who fills you bag with bread you don’t want.
The Craft Market
A craft market is held twice a week on Nahalat Binyamin, parallel to the food market. In some ways the concept is good as it draws a lot of visitors. However, to me the craft market is very tacky with a lot of mediocre stalls and which have not changed in many years. Depending on what one is after there are far better craft alternatives in Tel Aviv.
Friday’s and August
The busiest day of the week means the narrow streets are packed and in August it is just too hot!
The Carmel market is not just on HaCarmel Street but also on the parallel and side streets. The first part from Allenby is made up of clothes and junk stalls followed by food stalls. Next to the Carmel market is the Yemenite quarter which over the past few years has been renovated and is a pleasant place to walk around. Mornings are less busy than afternoons, apart from Friday and holiday eves.
The Disgruntled Diner